When Mary Murphy died in San Francisco 35 years ago, a provision of her will named her dog, Sido — but not as what you might call a beneficiary.
Murphy asked in her will that Sido, an 11-year-old part collie, part sheepdog, be killed.
Murphy didn’t want her dog languishing in a shelter, or ending up as part of a laboratory research project, and she feared that even if she did get adopted, her new family might not be as loving and caring as she had been.
In short, she thought Sido would be better off dead.
It all made for a fascinating little story (with big implications) back in 1980, with the case ending up in court and making it onto the June 17 broadcast of the “CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.”
It was animal advocate Richard Avanzino who, after the terms of Murphy’s will became known, took up Sido’s cause, and took in Sido, serving as the dog’s foster parent until things got straightened out in court. At the time, he was head of the San Francisco SPCA.
“There’s no justification for her life to be taken,” Avanzino said at the time. “She’s committed no crime. The only crime that she committed was that she loved totally her master and for that she’s been condemned to die.”
Today, Avanzino considers Sido the original poster child for the no-kill movement.
“Sido was just the quintessential champion for animal rescue,” he said. “I’m eternally grateful for the time that I had with her but more importantly for the great role she played in telling America that we can be a no-kill nation.”
“I took Sido into my home realizing that the lawsuit would probably take months to resolve the outcome and Sido joined my family as a foster pet,” Avanzino told CBS News this week from San Francisco.
Avanzino fought in court for Sido’s life, arguing that the dog wasn’t “property.”
At the same time, he and others lobbied state politicians to work on a measure that would save Sido’s life.
A bill was drafted, passed and sent to then-Governor Jerry Brown to consider.
The judge’s ruling came the same day the governor signed the bill.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Jay Pfotenhauer — whose name, CBS pointed out, translates to Paw-Slapper from German — decided that the killing of pets as personal property no longer had validity and that pets have rights.
Sido was spared, and spent the next five years as a member of Avanzino’s family.
On Sido’s 16th birthday, just hours before the cake was to be cut, Sido had a stroke and was rushed to UC Davis Veterinary School. She died three days later.
Avanzino says he believes Sido’s case served to inspire animal lovers, and help stem the number of euthanizations across the country.
In 1980, 16 million dogs and cats were killed in shelters; today that number is closer to 2.7 million.
(Photos: Courtesy of Richard Avanzino)
Posted by John Woestendiek June 19th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 1980, animals, case, cbs, court, dog, dogs, dogs as property, euthanize, flashback, history, law, legal, maddie's fund, mary murphy, news, pets, property, put down, report, richard avanzino, ruling, san francisco, san francisco spca, will
If Leona Helmsley was betrayed as much in life as she is being betrayed in death, it’s easy to understand why she might have become the bitch — and we’re not talking female dog — she was so often portrayed as.
In the latest development with the wealth she left behind, a second judge has ruled, in effect, that the foundation divvying up her fortune among charitable groups need not follow her express wish that much of that money be spent on the care of dogs.
The judge denied a bid by the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States and other animal groups to get a larger share of Helmsley’s billions.
Although Helmsley directed a share of her massive fortune go to “the care of dogs” — that being in addition to the $12 million she asked be left to her own dog — the Helmsley Foundation’s trustees have seen fit to dispense most of the foundation money among organizations that have little or nothing to do with canines.
According to the animal welfare groups, only about $100,000 of the $450 million the foundation has given away has gone to dog causes.
The dog charities argued they should have standing to challenge how the foundation gives away its money in light of Helmsley’s written statements and last wishes. Wayne Pacelle, president of HSUS, called the $100,000 received so far “a trifling amount, and contrary to Helmsley’s intentions.”
Surrogate’s Court Judge Nora Anderson in Manhattan rejected the bid by the animal welfare organizations to intervene in the case, agreeing with a judge who ruled earlier that the trustees have sole discretion in how to distribute the money, the New York Post reported yesterday.
She said she feared the groups’ challenge could open the floodgates to countless lawsuits from dog organizations around the world.
It’s hardly the first time Helmsley’s last wishes have been overruled since her death: Of that $12 million she left in her will for the care of her Maltese, named Trouble, a judge reduced the amount to $2 million.
Beyond what she intended to leave for the care and feeding of Trouble, Helmsley had another $5 to $8 billion, according to estimates of the trust’s worth.
Helmsley, who died in 2007, wrote in a 2004 mission statement for the trust that she wanted that money used for “1) purposes related to the provision or care of dogs and 2) such other charitable activities as the Trustees shall determine.”
In 2009, though, the Surrogate’s Court found that the mission statement did not place any legal restrictions on what donations could be made from the trust.
Later that year, the ASPCA, the Humane Society and Maddie’s Fund, filed a motion asking the court to vacate its earlier order and allow them to intervene. The primary interest of those groups was not, of course, in seeing solely that Helmsley’s wishes were honored, but neither, it seems, are the foundation’s. The animal welfare groups’ goals seem more aligned with her wishes, though.
By all descriptions, the so-called “queen of mean” was a hard-hearted woman, with one soft spot — dogs.
The foundation doling out her fortune doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of respect for dogs, or for Helmsley.
I’m no legal expert, just a dog lover, and I’m not asking for Trouble. But if I arranged to leave my fortune — non-existent though it may currently be — to my dog Ace, or anywhere else, and you didn’t carry out my wishes, you can be sure I’d be back to haunt you.
I’d show you mean.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 9th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal welfare, animals, aspca, bequeath, bequest, billions, bitch, charities, death, dogs, editorial, fortune, groups, helmsley foundation, hsus, humane society of the united states, inheritance, intervene, judge, leona helmsley, mean, organizations, pets, queen of mean, ruling, trouble, wayne pacelle, will
Gail Posner, the daughter of corporate-takeover king Victor Posner, has bequeathed her $8.3 million Miami mansion and a $3 million trust fund to her dogs, the New York Post reports.
Also named in the will were seven personal aides, including bodyguards and housekeepers, who were given a total of $26 million — and the right to live rent-free in the mansion while caring for the animals, according to court papers.
The 67-year-old heiress died in March.
Posner had three pets, including a Chihuahua named Conchita that she once called “one of the world’s most spoiled dogs.”
Gail Posner’s only living son, Hollywood screenwriter Bret Carr, has filed a lawsuit claiming his mom was drugged and “brainwashed” by her aides into leaving so much to her dogs.
In a 2007 interview, Posner admitted to buying a $15,000 diamond-studded Cartier necklace for Conchita. and once considered buying him his own Range Rover.
Posner changed her will in 2008, after she was already dying from cancer, and added the vast sums for her pups and workers.
The case is reminiscent of that of hotel heiress Leona Helmsley, who left $12 million to her Maltese, named Trouble, while snubbing two of her grandkids. A judge later knocked the amount the dog would receive down to a mere $2 million.
(Photo: Miami Herald)
Posted by John Woestendiek June 17th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: $3 million, animals, bequeath, bret carr, cancer, chihuahua, conchita, daughter, dogs, estate, gail posner, heiress, lawsuit, leona helmsley, mansion, miami, news, ohmidog!, pets, son, trouble, victor posner, will
I don’t begin to understand the intricacies of estate law, or the intricacies of Leona Helmsley — but I do believe this: A person, even if they are certifiably insane, deserves to have their last request honored.
With the distribution of the first $136 million from Helmsley’s multibillion-dollar estate, its trustees have shown — like judges before them — they don’t give a squat about Helmsley’s wishes, or the nation’s dogs.
The bulk of the money went to medical centers; only $1 million of the estate was donated to the care of dogs, which Helmsley had designated as primary beneficiary of her $5 billion.
“This is a trifling and embarrassingly small amount,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States. “Mrs. Helmsley’s wishes are clearly being subverted.”
Pacelle added, “We are extremely disappointed that less than 1 percent of the allocation announced is going to animal-related organizations, and only one-tenth of 1 percent is going to animal welfare organizations … We are in touch with the interested parties and are hoping to have a satisfactory resolution — a much larger percentage than 1 percent.”
After Helmsley’s 2007 death, it was revealed that she had drafted a statement four years earlier listing poor people and dogs as the causes to which she wanted her money donated. She crossed out the poor a year later. In February, though, a Manhattan judge ruled that the trustees had sole discretion in disbursing her assets and that the entire estate did not have to go to the dogs.
Helmsley also left $12 million to her Maltese, Trouble, but a judge reduced Trouble’s trust fund to $2 million in negotiating a $6 million settlement with two of Mrs. Helmsley’s grandchildren who were left out of her will.
Tuesday’s grants went to a digestive diseases center at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center ($40 million) and Mount Sinai Medical Center ($35 million). The Mount Sinai money is to be used to create a center to study the electrical properties of cells and tissues and to establish a Helmsley Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center, according to the New York Times. The $1 million for animal welfare was divided among 10 charities, including the ASPCA and Guide Dogs for the Blind.
I’m not sure even the honor of having a “bowel disease center” named after her would make up for the total disregard for her wishes. The trustees have shown that they are not to be trusted — at least when it comes to doling out the dough in a manner that comes anywhere close to what she wanted.
It shouldn’t be up to relatives, judges or anyone else to reinterpret the instructions one leaves upon one’s death — even if the deceased is mentally incompetent, as some might argue leaving $5 billion to dogs indicates. I’m not one of them. Who’s to say probing the mysteries of human bowels is more important than animal welfare? The trustees, apparently, in a decision that shouldn’t even be their’s to make in the first place. A person’s last wishes — if they’re not harming anyone — should be carried out, doggone it, even if they are stark raving mad.
Posted by John Woestendiek April 23rd, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal welfare, assets, blind, charities, dogs, estate, fund, grant, guide dogs, helmsley, hsus, humane society, judge, leona, maltese, settlement, trouble, trust, trustees, will
Trustees of real estate baroness Leona Helmsley’s estate say they’re giving $136 million to charity — and only $1 million of that is going to the dogs.
Animal rights groups rejoiced last year at reports that Helmsley, who died in 2007 at age 87, wanted her entire multibillion-dollar fortune to go to dog-related charities
But a court ruled in February that the trustees had authority to decide which charities could receive funds. Apparently dogs — and Helmsley’s wishes — rated pretty low in the decision-making process. The judge’s decision did not affect the $12 million Helmsley bequeathed to her Maltese, Trouble.
Helmsley’s estate yesterday announced its first round of charitable grants. The largest, $40 million, went to New York’s Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Most of the money went to health care systems across the country, Newsday reported today.
Helmsley’s estate distributed $1 million to 10 animal rights groups, including $100,000 to the ASPCA.
Posted by John Woestendiek April 21st, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal rights, animal welfare, aspca, benficiaries, charities, dogs, estate, fortune, leona helmsley, millions, trustees, will
The Federal Hill home of Kenneth Munzert sold at auction today for $808,500 — the bulk of which, under the terms of his will, now goes to an animal shelter in Richmond, Virginia.
It took auctioneer Tim Jennings, who stood on the house’s marble steps, less than 5 minutes to complete the sale to Mahlon Apgar of Ruxton, the Baltimore Sun reported.
Munzert, a retired engineer who died last year at age 88, left his home at 405 Warren Ave to the SPCA of Richmond, which had pledged to care for his dog in the event of Munzert’s death.
The dog, a former stray named Beauregard, ended up dying before his master, but Munzert still stipulated that the agency recieve the profits from the sale of his home.
Munzert’s will, filed in Baltimore last month, left three quarters of his $990,228 estate — an amount that didn’t include the house in Federal Hill — to animal protection groups.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 31st, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal lover, animal protection groups, auction, beauregard, bequeath, bequest, dog, estate, house, kenneth, mahlon apgar, munzert, news, richmond, spca, virginia, warren avenue, will
Kenneth Munzert, a wealthy Baltimore man who died last year, left what could turn out to be more than a million dollars to animal welfare organizations — much of it in memory of his loyal German shepherd, Beauregard.
According to a will filed in Baltimore last month, Munzert left an estimated $990,228 – three-quarters of which is directed to animal protection groups. That amount doesn’t include his house in Federal Hill, overlooking the Inner Harbor.
The house, which appears in the Al Pacino movie, “And Justice for All,” will be auctioned March 31, with proceeds going to the SPCA of Richmond, Va., an organization that had agreed to care for Beauregard if Munzert preceded him in death.
Munzert — a private and eccentric man who sometimes slept with his dog on the floor — died last year at 88, with no close family. A story about Munzert and his bequest appears in today’s Baltimore Sun.
On the Richmond SPCA website, CEO Robin Starr Starr explains how she came to know Munzert.
“I came to know Ken a number of years ago when his attorney contacted me because Ken was deeply concerned that he might predecease his beloved dog, Beauregard, and he had no friends or family who could give Beau a good home for the remainder of his life.
“The attorney asked me if I would consider accepting responsibility for Beau, with a promise not to euthanize him unless medically necessary for the remainder of his life. I had not made a practice of accepting responsibility for people’s pets after their death but, after I spoke with Ken, I agreed to do so for Beau.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 11th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal protection, animal welfare, animals, baltimore, beau, beauregard, bequest, care, death, dog, donation, federal hill, funding, german shepherd, harbor, house, million, munzert, richmond spca, will